Embedding our vision
FY17 saw the implementation of two significant policy changes that further strengthened our capacity to work towards our vision.
The 3-yearly review of our grants strategy was managed in two stages. Following the successful Cy Près order in the Supreme Court in November 2015, eligibility was reviewed to incorporate the expansion of the Trust’s remit to include “charitable purposes in the State of Victoria”. Implementation was timed to be effective for our FY17 grants rounds, and it was pleasing to see 14 grants approved to organisations who were previously ineligible to apply. The next stage of the strategic review was informed by the valuable data generated from our online application and reporting processes, along with consultations with key sector representatives and grantees. The new grants strategy was effective from 1 July 2016 and further sharpens our areas of interest.
The second major policy change came into effect in September 2016 when the Trustees approved up to a 2% allocation of the corpus to impact investments and also introduced a principles-based responsible investment overlay. We have started cautiously by moving an investment in an international shares fund to one that excludes companies engaged in the tobacco, controversial weapons, and nuclear weapons industries, and approved our first impact investment in the Murray-Darling Basin Balanced Water Fund.
The continuum of impact
The themes of evaluation, measurement and big data continue to challenge the sector. We all want to work strategically in a rapidly changing world, we all want to make informed decisions based on reliable data, and we all want our grants to make a positive difference. HMSTrust can easily report that in FY17 we received 130 applications of which 73 were approved for a total of $4.3m. We can report on the numbers and value of grants approved across our five programs and grant levels; we can dig deeper and report that 30% of grants were approved for capacity building vs project funding, and that 56% of grants directly benefit rural and regional Victoria. However, measuring the social impact of our grantmaking continues to be illusive because social impact takes time and is rarely the result of one intervention alone.
A direct outcome of our grants strategy is that we’re progressively increasing our support of capacity building projects and collaborative pilot initiatives over a multi-year period. We know that the majority of our grants represent only one piece of a complex puzzle of issues and interventions, and we recognise that long-term outcomes, let alone impact, need to evolve organically. In 2007, the Trust approved a grant of $65k to Country Education Victoria to develop a scalable online learning program, followed by two additional grants in 2009 and 2012 to further develop eKids. This innovative blended learning program contributed to the statewide digital learning framework for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. And relevant to this year, our FY17 Lead Grant of $586k to Orygen Research Centre began its journey with a grant of $61k in 2011. Orygen is now working with the Victorian Government to further develop the internationally recognised moderated e-health tool for youth onset psychosis as an online training employment program. In both instances, the impact of the original grants were impossible to predict, let alone measure, when the grants were acquitted. These grants are proudly featured in our bank of over 70 case studies on our website.
We know that the best intended timeframes and outcomes can be unpredictable. Grantees operate in continuously changing environments that can throw out a predicted milestone listed in the original application. On the other hand, HMSTrust can easily adjust internal timeframes. We see ourselves as a patient funder, and we value the learnings from initiatives that don’t meet expectations.
When we introduced our grants matrix structure and online application process in 2014 we were able to provide greater clarity and transparency to grantseekers, resulting in 50% fewer applications and a significant increase in the approval rate from an average of 30% to 60%. The number of ineligible applications have been reduced to zero, there was a marked increase in the quality of applications that matched our areas of interest, and our Grants team have more time to engage with grantseekers and grantees alike. Every meeting and interaction builds our knowledge base, expands our network and extends our capacity to provide advice, make connections, and work more effectively.
It’s a joy and a privilege to work at HMSTrust. We have a small team of exceptional professionals who each contribute their knowledge, experience, a curious mind, empathy and the courage to challenge assumptions. The key objectives that we apply to our grants matrix are equally applicable to our own operations and culture. The principles of equity, sustainability, building organisational capacity, and collaboration and partnership all underpin the way we work.
I thank the Trustees for their support and stewardship of Helen’s legacy. In February 2017, we welcomed Claire Higgins as our new Trustee. Claire’s extensive experience across the corporate, health and emergency services sectors is matched by her enthusiasm for her role as a Trustee.
Balit, noogee ba kangooeit biik
The more we engage with our diverse communities through our grantmaking, the deeper our appreciation of the importance of place and home, legacy and respect. In acknowledgement of the traditional owners of the land on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, we arranged for our vision for a strong, just and sustainable Victoria, to be translated into Woiwurrung language as a sign of respect to elders past, present and future. The translation was not straightforward, ‘sustainable’ has been interpreted as ‘everlasting’ and ‘Victoria’ as ‘country’.
I rather like the literal translation of our vision back to English for a ‘strong, just and everlasting country’.
Lin Bender AM